Reviewed by Angela Wauchop for the Other Terrain Journal.
“Death is easier in November—New Year around the corner. Come January, you set your mind to new thinking. You leave death with the year gone. Sucks in March; you have to live with death the whole year.”
‘Hadithi & The State of Black Speculative Fiction’ is the collaborative work of African-Australian author Eugen Bacon and black speculative fiction author Milton Davis. These award-winning authors have produced a unique book that consists of two parts. The first part of the book is an introductory article and the second part is a collection of short stories. The first section discusses the importance of black speculative fiction and how it is a medium that presents worlds and characters that rightfully portray the stories of its writers. Bacon and Davis acknowledge that black speculative fiction is still a long way from being a normalised genre, but it is growing in popularity and appeal. In fact, Bacon asserts that a black protagonist can be personal but also universal in their appeal, and the authors urge us to stop asking “Is it sci-fi? Is it fantasy?”, because “speculative fiction bends genres!”
The authors also discuss the rise of black speculative fiction over the past few decades and how the genre has moved “away from slavery and colonialism” towards empowerment. Bacon and Davis illustrate that a protagonist can be female, black and a vampire. As a reader, that is indeed a universal appeal, yet the authors also suggest that their readers “write their own stories”. They ask us as readers if we are hungry for stories that reflect us visibly or culturally, to get writing to fill that empty space. Davis effectively sums it up when he asserts that “[…] we all knew that good writing transcends demographics.”
Part two is entitled Hadithi, and begins with a selection of Bacon’s short stories, including the deeply personal Still She Visits, which explores themes such as death, anger, guilt and profound grief. The Water’s Memory begins with a young woman’s wedding night and the foreboding sorrow that she may or may not be able to thwart in the coming years. Bacon’s Ancestry is the succinct and magnetic story of Adisa who is not what she seems. This story asks if Adisa’s destiny is her own despite what others may assume.
Davis presents three short stories including the fast-paced and futuristic Carnival, in which we meet DJ Antwon who has us guessing what the hell he has planned and why he doesn’t expect to get away with it. Down South speaks of a mysterious errand that must be completed and asks us what on earth happened to the gentle and kind Roscoe all those years ago in Alabama.
These two sleek writers present a comprehensive and alluring collection of fact and fiction intertwined with tantalising truths and ‘what ifs’. ‘Hadithi & The State of Black Speculative Fiction’ offers its audience a cheeky and tantalising cross-genre experience of broad appeal to the reader and writer in all of us.
‘You think they’ll let us out again?’ he asked. ‘I hope not,’ Kadisha answered. ‘We almost killed everything the last time.’ ‘But we’re different now.’ Kadisha laughed. ‘No, we’re not […] Mother Earth won’t survive a second round of us. So, we stay on the Inside. That’s the law.’
To see the review on the journal, click here.